The highly-anticipated Manila Clasico will have their 3rd meeting this PBA season tomorrow. It will also be their 3rd encounter since Coach Tim Cone was moved from the successful Purefoods franchise towards the floundering Ginebra San Miguel franchise to address the shortcomings of the Barangay.
Overall, Star leads the rivalry 94-76 and for this season, the rivalry is tied at 1 apiece. Ginebra would like to trim that and more importantly, BGSM would love to give Tim Cone a 2-1 edge over his former team while also improving Ginebra’s record this conference.
At the same time, another loss would push the Star Hotshots farther down the standings and closer to an early elimination.
So, why will Ginebra win this upcoming matchup? Here are 4 reasons that favor them.
1. Twin Towers
The Gin Kings have one of the best big men combinations in the PBA with Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar. The twin towers combined for about 40 points and 23 rebounds during the Philippine Cup.
They also have the longest and tallest forward lineups especially when Joe DeVance or Chris Ellis plays either forward position.
Thus, it is not a surprise that they are #2 in total rebounds because even their import, Othyus Jeffers averages almost 19 boards a game.
Since Ginebra has a clear advantage in size, height and length over any team, they should assert those strengths against the Star Hotshots whose overall advantage is not their frontline but their perimeter players.
Hence, Ginebra must make a concerted effort to prioritize the twin towers in the low post because the Hotshots cannot contain them with just Marc Pingris and Rafi Reavis. If those guys struggle, the Hotshots will be forced to use Ian Sangalang and Norbert Torres who are not as good defensively.
Moreover, if Slaughter gets going, then the Hotshots will have no choice but to play Denzel Bowles against Gregzilla which could tire Bowles more and/or get him into early foul trouble.
2. Tim Cone
The winningest coach in PBA history was brought to BGSM to help them win more games and hopefully get title #9 (and more) especially since Ginebra last won a title during the 2007-08 season. So far, their union has produced more wins but no finals appearances yet.
Still, team management and their fans are optimistic and hopeful that Cone can deliver success to their deprived fan base. Moreover, Cone has the coaching advantage against rookie coach Jason Webb of Star. Aside from Cone knowing a thing or two on how to take advantage of Star’s roster, his players believe in Cone’s philosophy and system.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about Webb and his Star Hotshots. Their poor start together with an early exit during the Philippine Cup has surrounded their team with doubts and internal struggles. It’s very possible that Coach Webb still does not have the full trust and support of the entire team.
3. Ball Movement
The arrival of Tim Cone to Ginebra meant that the triangle offense was moving with him. The learning and mastery of the triangle takes time and a lot of patience (years of practice and not just conferences). So when teams start to understand this system, a direct result of the triangle offense can be seen when there is more ball movement and player involvement.
Consequently, the Gin Kings are already experiencing some of the advantages of the triangle offense. They are currently #1 in assists per game (25 apg) while their turnovers have lessened compared to their team rankings during the past Philippine Cup where Ginebra was the 4th best in team assists while finishing 9th in turnovers. One of the players who has thrived under the triangle offense is Scottie Thompson because he is very unselfish and is an ultimate team player.
In comparison, the Star Hotshots have struggled in the assists department where they placed 11th during the last conference. On the bright side, the Hotshots are averaging more assists this conference (19 apg) but they are still lagging behind Barangay Ginebra.
The most recent and current editions of Ginebra players have been criticized for their lack of passion and intensity. Even former Ginebra players (like Chito Loyzaga and Sonny Jaworksi) have voiced their opinion that the team does not consistently express the “never-say-die attitude.”
Whether that assessment about the team is accurate or not, their never-say-die fans #NSD will never change their feelings towards the Barangay. Their millions of fans will support BGSM regardless of their record. It does not matter if the Gin Kings are up 20 or down 20, their supporters will always cheer for them. Ask any player, would they rather hear cheers or boos?
Hence, Ginebra’s fans will always give them “home court” advantage over any opponent. These fans will give them their loyal support; provide boisterous cheering and display unfailing belief that no matter the score (or odds), Ginebra will still prevail and win the game. How many teams can say the same about their fans?
Ultimately, it will be up to Ginebra’s players and coaching staff to use these advantages to their favor. Aside from those, they should also use all of the positive energy from their fans and convert that into something that can help them win games. — By Rolly Mendoza